THERE’S a new bully in the 4x4 sales playground.
As of this year, the Ford Ranger has taken over from the Toyota Hilux as Australia’s most popular 4x4, which means, for the first time in decades, the tables have turned and Australia’s most popular 4x4 isn’t a Toyota.
Read more of 4X4's 2017 Most Popular Report Cards
While Toyota isn’t bleeding too much right now – as the Hilux still outsells the Ranger when you include 4x2 variants – the Ranger’s star is rising. Sales of Ranger 4x4 to the end of May 2017 verses end of May 2016 increased at twice the rate of the Hilux, and the recent demise of the Falcon ute can only enhance sales of the Ranger 4x2.
In the bigger picture, Toyota still looks comfortable in the 4x4 market, with the Prado and Land Cruiser 200 joining the Hilux in the top-10 best sellers.
And, in a market still dominated by utes – with Triton, Colorado, Navara, D-MAX and BT-50 also in the top 10 – there are now three wagons in the mix thanks to the rise of Mitsubishi’s Pajero Sport.
So, how do they stack up when Principal Stronach hands out the mid-year report cards?
#1 FORD RANGER
THERE’S somewhat of a sad irony in the Ranger taking over as Australia’s best-selling 4x4, as the Ranger is effectively Australian designed and developed, yet the Australian car-building industry is in the process of closing down. In fact, Ford has already stopped building cars in Australia, though it will keep a local design and development facility going into the future.
The Ranger is currently not only the best-selling 4x4 in Australia, but it’s also close to out-stripping the Hilux as Australia’s best-selling new car – and by year’s end, it should be just that.
The Ranger deserves the success it’s having, as it’s an excellent ute in any role it’s asked to perform.
Much of its ability at doing everything well comes from the grunt and flexibility of its 3.2-litre five-cylinder diesel. This unique engine is the basis of the Ranger’s strong performance and class-leading towing and load-carrying ability. If you want to tow 3500kg or haul a 1000kg payload, this is the ute you want.
The Ranger won’t disappoint off-road, with excellent wheel travel and generous ground clearance. A tweak to the 4x4 system in the Ranger’s 2015 mid-life refresh means the rear diff lock, which is standard on all Ranger 4x4s, doesn’t cancel the electronic traction control across the front axle when activated, as was the case before the 2015 upgrade and with most utes the Ranger competes against.
If towing or off-roading isn’t your thing, then the Ranger is an engaging and enjoyable on-road drive, especially out on the highways and byways. The Ranger then backs up this good-at-everything disposition with a big, spacious and comfortable cabin.
While there’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, it still offers a great driving position. Another positive is that the combined front and rear legroom of the notably long cabin is also as good as it gets in its class.
2017 (to June): 14,114
2016 (to June): 11,789
Cabin & Equipment: A
Towing & Practicality: A
Final word: Proof that a good big ute will always beat a good small ute.
*Scored against class competitors. A= Excellent. B= Very Good. C= Good. D= Fair. E= Poor. F= Fail.